Finding 1863 birth of John Sellars and death of his father Robert (British subjects) around 1870 in Panama/Colombia?


This question is related to Finding New York City/State records relating to Sellars family (British subjects) births/deaths mid 19th century?.

I have a Scottish ancestor, Robert Sellars born 1830, who with wife Margaret Clacher, had a fourth son John born in New Grenada (now country of Colombia), Panama, South America in about 1863.

More details on John:

1871 Scottish Census

Age: 8
Residence: Glasgow Maxwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Name: John Sellars 
Age: 8 
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1863 
Relationship: Nephew 
Gender: Male 
Where born: South America Br S, Panama

1881 Scottish Census

Age: 18
Residence: Glasgow Kinning Park, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Name: John Sellars 
Age: 18 
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1863 
Relationship: Nephew-in-law 
Gender: Male 
Where born: Panann, State of New Grenada

I had overlooked the "State of Grenada" bit and from Wikipedia have just learned that "Nueva Granada later became the Republic of Colombia".

I have no direct record of Robert after the 1855 New York State Census (see Finding New York City/State records relating to Sellars family (British subjects) births/deaths mid 19th century?).

However the children he later fathered, and his wife's Death Certificate from 5 Nov 1867 in Tradeston, Glasgow (in a relative's hands) apparently has her husband's job as "Railway Company Ship Building Manager". indicate that he was probably still alive in 1867.

I am keen to learn where to find Colombia/Panama birth and death records from the late 1850s and 1860s in order to verify the:

  1. Birth of John there in about 1863
  2. The probable death of Robert there at age about 37 or older, in about 1867 or later.

It is interesting to read about this Civil War ship at FamilySearch:

Warren. Class: Sailing ship; wood. Sold at auction, January 1, 1863, at Panama, for $3,900. Went out of commission and turned over to Panama Railway Co., January 2, 1863. Commission for sale was $195.

I think this is an event that Robert as the "Railway Company Ship Building Manager" who was in Panama that year would have had to have had some involvement.


Posted 2012-10-19T00:17:54.593

Reputation: 10 741

1What is your source for the son's birth information? You say you've been unable to find birth records for them, so how accurate is this other source likely to be? Maybe it's misleading? – Rob Hoare – 2012-10-19T02:36:55.237

Thanks @RobHoare - you prompted me to re-examine the Scottish Census records and as a result I maybe should be looking for him/them in Colombia rather than Panama - see UPDATE in Question. – PolyGeo – 2012-10-19T03:17:23.473

The "British Subject" bit reminded me that the British Nationals Born Overseas at Findmypast would normally be a place to look. But only if they're the sort that can be bothered to find a consulate to do all the paperwork at! I doubt these would have time.

– Rob Hoare – 2012-10-19T03:50:31.603

Have been reading various history clips about the area around the time of John's birth. Fascinating. +1 for spinning them into two questions. I might have missed the focus. – GeneJ – 2012-10-19T23:04:37.590

@RobHoare Overseas-born was a great idea, but it looks like a blank. 14 births named some variant of Sellars 1860-1880. 8 in Portugal, 5 in Turkey and 1 in Azores. – Fortiter – 2012-10-22T04:41:13.590

Is there evidence that Margaret (mother of John) was back in Scotland apart from the birth of young Margaret in 1866? Do you believe she is the woman (age 44) "visiting" on Census night 1871? – Fortiter – 2012-10-22T05:09:40.327

I'm confident that she was in Dundonald, Ayrshire for 1861 Scottish Census: Ship Carpenters Wife (not widow so Robert Sellers seems still to be alive) Living with her sons Hugh (10) and Robert (6) Margaret Sillars 32 Hugh Sillars 10 Robert Sillars 6 - also I think I've seen her Death Certificate from 1867 in Tradeston, Glasgow (looking for it now). – PolyGeo – 2012-10-22T05:24:20.330

Her Death Certificate from 5 Nov 1867 in Tradeston, Glasgow is actually in a relative's hands and has her husband's job as "Railway Company Ship Building Manager." – PolyGeo – 2012-10-22T05:32:35.860


The search of William Sellars in Panama/Columbia? With the given information, I reached a quick theory. Ship carpenter, in the census. Search of crew list yielded,

Glasgow, Scotland, Crew Lists, 1863 - 1901 Record for W J Sellars

The link above is a Broadside ballad entitled 'The Ship Carpenter's Wife'

The life of a ship carpenter may be the investigative resource you should delve into, so you can get a clear picture of the life in general.

– Ezri Rediker – 2012-10-22T13:46:06.647

WJ Sellars may be the son (born in New York) but have found nothing else to suggest he was Surgeon - but thanks! The ballad reference is very useful too from human interest perspective. – PolyGeo – 2012-10-22T22:37:35.220



The National Archives holds the Foreign Office records for New Grenada/Colombia in the FO (Foreign Office) series. Specifically, FO 736 covers "...a roster of British subjects and registers of births and deaths from the British consulates in Santa Marta and Cartagena, Colombia (formerly Greater Colombia) respectively." Go to the Discovery section of the site at and search for FO 736. You may also want to search for "New Grenada" to see other related results. Granted, Consular birth/marriage/death registrations should appear on FindMyPast, but there may be other records at The National Archives that could help. Note that the archives refers to the country as "United States of Grenada." You may also want to try British Newspaper Archive at

Kathy Nemaric

Posted 2012-10-19T00:17:54.593

Reputation: 271

Many thanks Kathy - if only I was still living in England and could visit Kew to look through FO 736 - newspaper archive just turned up possible father to Robert Sellars, called Hugh (same as his eldest son), also a ship's carpenter and also from Glasgow. – PolyGeo – 2012-10-22T23:15:42.490